Chili – Something Cincinnati Doesn’t Suck At (Along With Racial Tension And Not Making The Playoffs)
26 September 2008
Much like barbecue, pizza, and places in the U.S. where I don’t have to worry about outstanding warrants, chili predilections are largely governed by American regional geography and asshole sheriffs. Texas chili, for instance, eschews vegetables and beans in order to focus on beef and peppers. The southwest, however, is less draconian in their recipes, and readily allows for both tomatoes and legumes. San Francisco cares not what’s in your chili, so long as I’m making it with my shirt off (hi, John!). Not only are the recipes as varied and sundry as the races against which I’m prejudiced, but so are the myriad toppings, sides, and secret ingredients which make chili so personal a dish. I’ve had chili with a peanut butter sandwich on the side, I’ve had chili served over Fritos and topped with cheddar cheese, I’ve been served chili made with lamb, and I’ve even had sex with my friend Doug’s mom while she was re-heating a bowl of chili for me, which she had made the night before (sorry, Doug!).
And while “the best” style of chili is certainly up for debate, there’s one thing we can all agree on: the best style of chili is Cincinnati-style chili. For those of you who may be used to traditional chilis with cubed meats, heavy on the peppers and spices, Cincinnati chili will be as foreign to you as good chili. The best place, by far, to get good Cincinnati chili is at Skyline Chili, located not only in Ohio, but also in other neighboring Midwestern states you’ll never visit. Some differences in Cincy chili you’ll be able to recognize right away: it utilizes ground meat instead of large chunks, its “sauce” is less viscous than its southern counterpart’s, and, lastly, it gets put on fucking everything. Another difference lies in the secret ingredient (which isn’t secret anymore because everyone knows it): chocolate. Now, I hate chocolate. I hate it in cake form, bar form, kiss form, and Charlie and the Factory form. I just don’t fucking like it, and I don’t understand people who speak about it in hushed, rapturous tones – those should be reserved for adulation of scotch (and maybe Wayne Newton.) So you assholes can do me a favor and stop looking at me weird when I say I don’t want any of that birthday cake you brought in for the secretary – you’re the odd ones, not me. NOT ME!!!! In chili, however, chocolate doesn’t overpower, but instead plays nicely with its bolder counterparts. Chocolate merely compliments and enhances other, better flavors. In fact, chocolate thinks it heard of a similar chocolate/savory relationship from his Mexican co-worker, Mole, who chocolate thinks has probably been stealing office supplies.
Now living amongst the beautiful people, where I belong, I can no longer get a decent Cincinnati chili. My only opportunity comes once a year, or so, when I go on my annual pilgrimage to my parents’ house, in a tradition they like to call the “Your Drinking Is Ruining This Family” Summit. And, while this time is generally marked by secret scotch binging, intra-familial stabbings, and lots and lots of crying, being able to get Skyline chili makes it all worthwhile. The beauty of Cincinnati chili is that you never really order a “bowl” of it. Rather, you merely pick the conveyance on which you would like your chili served. The two most popular choices are hot dogs and pasta, both of which come as either a 3-way (with chili and cheese) or a 5-way (with chili, cheese, onion, and beans), neither of which were easy to refrain from making a joke about in reference to the fact that 3-ways and 5-ways could also describe sex with three or five people, respectively. Boobies and vaginas! (ah, that feels better.)
Ground chuck (or Tom, or Dave, or whatever hobo you happen to have laying around your basement)
Spices: ground peppercorns, allspice, cloves, bay leaf, salt, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and cumin
Cook, While Watching the Bengals Lose:
Bring the water to a boil, and throw the meat in. Reduce to a simmer, then, uh, I guess just throw in the rest of that shit as well, maybe? Cook until it looks, smells, and tastes like Skyline chili. If it looks, smells, or tastes like something else (or just bad, in general) please understand that this reflects on your poor cooking skills moreso than on my recipe, which is awesome. If, however, after several hours of simmering, you end up with some beautiful, delicious chili, then: congratulations – I can’t believe that worked! Boil some pasta and top it with a little bit of Cincy. Make some hot dogs and introduce them to the Queen City. Whatever you do, make sure to add several pounds of grated, iridescent orange cheddar cheese – now you’re eating like a true Midwesterner.
Sweet holy balls, do I love me some breakfast. Why we don’t eat breakfast all day is beyond me, because breakfast has fucking everything you could ever want in a meal: Incredible, edible eggs? Check. Glorious sausage? Yep. Potatoes of all varieties? Right on. Pan fried pork strips of almost debilitating goodness? You bet your ass, hombre. From hash to fried egg sandwiches, frittatas to big ol’ plates of bacon, breakfast may be just the thing to get your day started on the right note, but can also serve as a mid day pick-me-up, a comforting supper, or even a relaxing repast after locking your children in their cages for the evening. I love breakfast so much that I once burned down a McDonald’s after being denied an egg McMuffin at 10:32 a.m. I even sponsored House Bill 329, which mandated that lunch be renamed “Lunchfrast”, and dinner renamed “Nighttime Breakfast” (because I don’t have much of an imagination, that’s why.)*
Much like John Cleese in comedy; The Rolling Stones in rock & roll; and Jason Statham in kicking ass while trying to find an antidote to the poison he was given, but if his heart rate drops he’ll die, so he’s got to do a whole bunch of crazy shit until he eventually falls out of a helicopter, or something, I can’t remember what actually happened at the end of that movie; the English version of breakfast happens to be the best. That they alternately call FEB’s “Fry Ups” should tell you all you need to know**. Where I live, there are a number of English restaurants and pubs, all of which are happy to serve you up a wonderful FEB, and also a collective punch in the sack should you make a remark like, “soccer is so fucking boring, now football – there’s a real sport.” I have my suspicions as to the authenticity of these establishments, however, as they are all equally disapproving of my perfect English accent, which I honed by watching Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, seventeen times in a row. Regardless of their ungratefulness at my attempts at cultural awareness, sitting outside on their quiet patios, in front of a plate so full of food that it looks as though I’m about to engage in a bout of competitive eating, is just about as good as it gets. Throw in several glasses of Bushmills (neat) and you’ve got yourself a little slice of heaven, not to mention the very strong possibility of a reinvigorating mid-day throw up. Eating an FEB out at a restaurant, however, may not be conducive to immediate nap-time, which is why I’m going to show you how to make an English Fry-up, right at home, so as to minimize any unnecessary movements between you and your couch.
Stuff to Put on Your Plate:
Holy shit, that’s a lotta food
Sweet, glorious, magnificent HP Sauce
You could probably scramble, poach, or serve your eggs over-easy, but why, oh, why would you do that when you can fry them instead? No, seriously, why the fuck would you do that? These luscious poultry zygotes will serve as the anchor for our Anglican breakfast bounty, and leaving the yolks nice and runny means that we’ll eventually have a vibrant little cholesterol soup which we can later sop up with our meats. While you’re frying shit, go ahead and throw some rashers of bacon in a pan and crisp-up those bad boys, too. In that same pan, saute some potatoes, thus making them taste just like the bacon. I see nothing wrong with this. I’ll let you decide what kind of sausage you want, but try and stay away from those fancy new-fangled sausages with froo-froo ingredients in them, such as spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, or the soundtrack to Funny Girl. These additives will take away from the over-all meatiness of the meal, and, besides, what are you, some kind of nancy-boy?
Here’s where things get interesting (or, as Will Smith would say: “Shit just got real”). I don’t know what genius tossed convention aside and decided to have baked beans with his breakfast, but he did all of us a favor, because beans at any time, but especially with eggs, bacon, and sausage, is delicious. Another curious addition to our breakfast is sauteed mushrooms, which, while delicious, seem rather arbitrary. Feel free to deep fry them, in keeping with the spirit of this meal, in particular, and that of this blog, in general. A grilled half tomato is also added, either as a means of making you feel as though you’re eating something healthy, or, more likely, as an ironic means of affrontery to all things recommended by the FDA Food Pyramid.
Perhaps my favorite part of an FEB is the fried bread. Jesus Horatio Christ, is fried bread good. Why on earth would you simply toast your bread, when you could cook it in butter and/or oil, instead? Because you’re a misanthrope and you hate our freedom, that’s why. Blood sausage is another awesome addition to an FEB, but unless you feel like making a special trip to get some, you’re probably okay leaving this off the menu. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is the addition of the inimitable HP sauce. You could put HP sauce on a dead cat and it would taste delicious – trust me. Apply HP liberally to your meats, eggs, beans, bread, chest, and groin region. Apply it to your pet for a lustrous, shiny coat. Apply a little elbow grease to something and it may get done, but apply a little elbow grease and some HP, and it will get done deliciously.
And there you have it, the glorious Full English Breakfast. It should go without saying that this thing is going to give you a monstrous case of The Bloat, but don’t worry about it: you’ll probably be passed out from an advanced case of meat sweats, in no time, anyway. Hopefully you’ll regain consciousness right before a nice light dinner of fish & chips, meat pies, and bangers and mash.
*I’m just kidding, I didn’t actually do this. I’m not even in Congress… Yet.
**Some food critic for The Times of London – the very Britishly named “Giles Coren” – wrote a scathing review of the FEB (while peering through his monocle), in which he claimed that “you never see anyone with a degree eating a fry up…they’re smart enough to know better.” Well, Mr. Coren, not only do I have several degrees, and happen to be a registered scientist, but never once have I… Wait, what was I talking about? Ooooo, look: shiny pretty things and boobs…
17 September 2008
“The merry grinding of the roller skates, the cheerful if ironic music, the cries of the little children on their goose-necked steeds, the procession of queer pictures – all this had suddenly become transcendentally awful and tragic, distant, transmuted, as it were some final impression on the senses of what the earth was like, carried over into an obscure region of death, a gathering thunder of immedicable sorrow; [The Chef’s Prerogative] needed a drink…”
USC 35, OSU 3
Titans 24, Bengals 7
This week’s football-related mood is: DISCONSOLATE
5 September 2008
Don’t let my rock-hard abs, perfectly defined pectorals, ripped lats, and huge penis fool you – I’m no stranger to fatty, artery-clogging, and greasy fare. Pizza, cheeseburgers, and foie gras smeared on bacon are all right in my lard-loving wheel house. But when I’m in the mood for some truly messy, succulent, nap-time inducing food, I tend to turn to barbecue. Specifically, I love me some melt-in-your-mouth ribs, with a side of baked beans and steak fries. Now, I know that barbecue inspires fierce loyalty in people, and that any preference opposed to ones own regarding the best way to cook, sauce, or prep an item sparks both righteous indignation and me punching people in the face. I’m not here to tell you how to make award winning pork butt, or to settle the titanic and contentious cases of Wet v. Dry, or Vinegar-Based v. Tomato-Based; I’m just telling you how to get some tasty-ass ribs from your oven, without too much fuss. So if you BBQ elitists don’t like it, you can stick it in your smug-holes, along with that $600 smoker you use once a year. Now, for those of you who, like me, don’t ask much form your ribs, let’s finish up pleasuring that Swedish lingerie model we met at Whole Foods and tuck into some down-right passable pork.
Admittedly, cooking ribs in your oven won’t give them that iconic smoke ring or tasty bark so familiar to barbecue fans; but it does allow you to cook them in your home, which means you can cook them while naked and glistening from the baby oil you rub all over yourself on special occasions or when you need a little pick-me-up after a rough week. Now, even though these are pretty easy to make, don’t think that they’re going to be quick to make – you’re going to want to budget about 2-4 hours of cook time, alone, if you want the finished product to be falling off the bone and not give anybody worms.
I’ll let you figure out what kind of ribs to buy, whether St. Louis style, baby back, or from Chili’s. The three main things I’m going to focus on are (1) the rub; (2) the tenderizer; and (3) what changes I can make in my daily life to help reverse the effects of global warming. The rub is important because Alton Brown tells me that it is. I can’t remember what he said to put in it, but I can tell you that I happen to prefer black pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, brown sugar, smoked paprika, and salt (does that sound right? I have no idea. Those are all spices, yeah?). As for the tenderizer, I like to hang my ribs up and pretend I’m Rocky Balboa, punching them in a meat locker. Additionally, I like to add a little beer to the cooking vessel, as well as to my gullet.
All that shit I just listed
Your favorite BBQ sauce, which happens to be the one I’m going to tell you how to make
Wake up early, tell that supermodel you just showed the best time of her life to scram, and pre-heat your oven to, oh, I don’t know, say, 300 degrees. As the name “rub” implies, you want to gently sprinkle your seasoning on the pork. Pour some beer in a big Pyrex dish, throw in your ribs, cover tightly with foil, and put the whole she-bang in the oven. You, my friend, now have about three hours to kill by watching football and being handsome. Normally, I would tell you drink your ass off during this time, and today is no exception – go ahead and get blitzed like you were Carson Palmer behind his shitty O-line. When the ribs are ready, take them out of the dish and crank up your broiler. Paint the ribs with the sauce you just made from cider vinegar, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, salt, and red pepper flakes. Throw ’em under the heat for a little bit, but be sure to take them out if it looks like they’re going to burn, genius. Serve with fries, an ice-cold beer, and a sense of satisfaction at having accomplished something in three hours which could have been accomplished in far easier fashion had you just gone down to the sports bar at the corner, ordered a rack, and watched your favorite team lose the first game of the season.